A ceremony honoring the first African Americans in the Marine Corps was held in Jacksonville on Wednesday.
The ceremony at Lejeune Memorial Gardens marked the completion of the Montford Point Memorial and the official transfer of responsibility to the Department of the Navy. Commanding General of the II Marine Expeditionary Force Lt. General Robert Hedelund provided opening remarks.
“This memorial will remain long after we are gone and will remind future generations of Marines about the legacy of the Montford Point Marines who blazed a trail into the history of our Corps by their courage and their dignity.”
The memorial’s centerpiece, a sculpture of a Montford Point Marine ascending a hill, represents the struggle of African American Marines who experienced segregation and discrimination in service. The memorial also includes an anti-aircraft gun and a “Wall of Heroes” with about 20,000 gold stars representative of the number of African American Marines who trained at Camp Montford Point during the 1940’s.
Retired Lt. General Ronald Coleman, who is the second African American in the Marine Corp to reach the 3-star rank said the monument reinforces Montford Point Marines as true American heroes.
“To me it brings chills, and thankfulness. Remember, these were men that had to fight for their right to fight. That’s what amazes me, the things they had to go through just to defend their country.”
The Memorial Gifting Ceremony was held in conjunction with the 53rd Annual National Montford Point Marine Association’s Convention in Jacksonville taking place through Saturday.